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Preview – Contact-Distance Gunfighting

Photos by Michael Janich and Michael C. Rigg

A CQC Expert Sheds Light on How to Draw While Grappling — Whether On Your Feet, Your Butt, or Your Back

Anyone can punch lead through paper on a flat range all day long, but unless you know what you’ll face in a real confrontation and how you’ll face it, you’re not that much better prepared. Practical personal-defense training should start with a clear understanding of the nature of “the problem” — the actual types of threats you’re likely to encounter on the street. And the best way to do that is to get information from actual crime victims.

The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics’ (BJS) National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) gathers information about crimes from nearly 160,000 people in 90,000 households across the country. Unlike the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), which are based only on crimes reported to the police, the NCVS includes both reported and unreported crimes.

According to a BJS report titled Weapon Use and Violent Crime, from 1993 to 2001 “about 26 percent (or an annual average of 2.3 million) of the estimated 8.9 million violent crimes in the United States were committed by offenders armed with guns, knives, or objects used as weapons. Firearm violence accounted for 10 percent of all violent crimes; about 6 percent were committed with a knife or other sharp object, such as scissors, an icepick, or a broken bottle; 4 percent with blunt objects such as a brick, bat, or bottle; and 5 percent were committed with unspecified objects used as weapons.” The report also revealed that 73 percent of all the assaults committed during this period were simple assaults involving unarmed attackers.

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Another frequently cited source of crime statistics is the FBI’s Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted report. This annual report analyzes the circumstances surrounding the deaths of law enforcement officers in the United States, including critical details such as the distances at which the officers were fatally shot. According to this report, 493 officers were killed with firearms from 2003 to 2012. Of those, 234 (almost half) were shot at distances of zero to 5 feet.

If we do the math, it’s pretty clear that your odds of having to protect yourself from being struck by a fist or other contact-distance weapon are far higher than having to defend yourself against a firearm. Furthermore, if your assailant does have a gun, he’s most dangerous when he’s up close. Based on this definition of the “reality” of violent crime, it would seem that close-quarters tactics would be the rule in defensive firearms training, right?

Unfortunately, no. Most so-called defensive-shooting training is still done at 7 yards, and the little that is done at close range typically sucks. Why? In my opinion, there are several reasons.

First and foremost, training to fight at close range typically involves physical contact, exertion, and, quite possibly, a bit of embarrassment. Many pure “gun guys” don’t like that. To train close-range skills effectively, you also need appropriate equipment — like Simunitions and all the protective gear to go with it. And let’s not forget that you need skilled role players with good physical control and some flair for the dramatic to play the bad guys. Even then, injuries can happen.


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Contact-distance, force-on-force gunfighting is also less common because it dispels the myth that because you have a gun and the ability to shoot, you’re prepared for anything. The thug in your photorealistic target has a baseball bat? Shoot him. The other target has a picture of a guy with a knife? No problem — shoot him, too. For the “round guy, square range” crowd, this type of suspended reality is extremely seductive. For those of us who are serious about personal defense, it’s a potential black hole of complacency. Let’s be smarter than that.

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 Order of Operations
Statistics don’t lie — close-range attacks do happen. And when they happen, the order of operations for defending yourself with a handgun is simple and logical:

  •  Step 1: Minimize injury to yourself with sound, unarmed defensive skills.
  •  Step 2: Achieve enough control over your attacker to momentarily keep him from injuring you while you access your gun.
  •  Step 3: Confirm that the attacker poses a lethal threat.
  •  Step 4: Draw your gun one-handed.
  •  Step 5: Shoot your attacker to stop the threat while avoiding injury to innocent parties.

Surviving the initial assault must be your first priority; otherwise everything else is academic. This requires some form of empty-hand defensive skill that will keep you from getting hit, stabbed, cut, or shot. (It also means spending time on the mat, as well as at the range, in advance of any possible attack.)

After weathering the initial attack, you should immediately establish decisive control over your attacker with your non-gun arm. This control should limit the attacker’s ability to target you effectively and give you a second or two to actually see what’s in your attacker’s hand — confirming that you’re facing a lethal threat before you shoot him. As strange as it might sound, this is an element that is missing from even a lot of good force-on-force, contact-distance-shooting training.

 For the rest of this article, click here to purchase: CONCEALMENT


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